ST. LOUIS — He’s back.
Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson announced Tuesday that Tigers sophomore guard Michael Dixon Jr. will play against Illinois on Wednesday in the Braggin' Rights game at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
No. 9 Missouri (10-1)
vs. No. 21 Illinois (10-2)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Scottrade Center in St. Louis
Radio: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
Dixon started the first nine games for Missouri, but was suspended indefinitely last Wednesday for violating an unspecified team rule. Dixon sat out for Missouri’s 81-62 win over Oral Roberts and 116-63 win over Central Arkansas. Until that point, Dixon was the team leader in assists.
"At this point in time I have made the decision that Mike Dixon will play in this game," Anderson said. "He's served his penalty and we're ready to move forward."
Anderson said that Dixon has completed the list of tasks that Anderson set out for him, but that the list was private between the two of them. Anderson then added that he has not yet made the decision on whether or not Dixon will start in Wednesday’s game.
Meanwhile, the announcement that Dixon would play came as no surprise to the Illinois coaches and players.
“We anticipated him playing, it’s not a surprise to me,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “I don’t know what he did, but sometimes it’s typical of coaches, and I’ve done it too, to keep him out a game or two and then make sure you have him when you need him."
Weber said he hopes that because Dixon hasn't played in Missouri's past two games, the sophomore guard will come out rusty on Wednesday night.
"Maybe he lost a little bit of that game rhythm and routine," Weber said. "I hope it affects him, but probably not.”
When Dixon was first suspended, it seemed uncertain when he would return, since it was not made known what team rule he violated. But following Missouri’s last game against Central Arkansas, Anderson said that Dixon had been cleared to practice again. After Dixon’s replacement in the starting lineup, Phil Pressey, broke a bone in his right hand during Sunday’s practice, it seemed more and more likely that Dixon would be suiting up against the Illini.
Illinois said it has been preparing for Dixon’s quickness and shooting ability with the assumption he will play on Wednesday. In last season's Braggin' Rights game, Dixon scored 16 points and added five assists in Missouri’s 81-68 victory.
“He’s good, there’s no doubt about that,” Weber said. “We’ve just got to guard him. We’ve got to do a better job to keep him out of transition, that’s where he’s so effective. He hurt us last year, and that might have been the difference in that game.”
Illinois forward Mike Davis said that entering last year’s game, Illinois was focused on Missouri guards Kim English and Marcus Denmon, not Dixon, who was filling in for normal starter Zaire Taylor, who was out with a cold.
"We definitely explained to Mike (Dixon) last year how big this game is, and he played one of the best games of his freshman year," English said.
This season’s game between Missouri and Illinois marks the first time since 2003 that both teams enter the game ranked in the Top 25.